Heating Sources Safety

EM_Stock Images_Heater.jpgThe United States Fire Administration estimates that 905 people die in winter home fires each year. Direct property losses due to winter home fires reach over $2 billion a year, with heating being the second-leading cause of all residential building fires following cooking. By following a few safety tips, citizens can put a freeze on winter fires.

Wood stoves:

Wood stoves are a common or secondary heating source for homes. Carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design and should be approved by a recognized testing lab such as Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing. The stove should have a clearance of three feet from combustible surfaces and proper floor support and function.

Electric space heaters:

Only buy heaters with the UL safety listing. Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism and safety switch, enabling it to switch off if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Space heaters need available room around them; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when it is not in use.

Kerosene heaters:

Buy only UL-approved heaters and check with your local fire department on the legality of using a kerosene heater in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare up easily. Only use the fuel recommended by the heater's manufacturer. Never introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type of fuel. Never overfill any portable heater.

Wood-burning fireplaces:

Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys. Fireplaces need to be cleaned out frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires. Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper, or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.

Portable Generator Safety

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous if not used properly. The most common dangers associated with portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution and fires.

There are simple steps you can take to prevent these hazards from occurring and resulting in the loss of life and/or property damage from improper use of portable generators.

To avoid carbon monoxide hazards:

  • Always use generators outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents.
  • NEVER use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions for use.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home, following manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.
  • NEVER cook inside or heat your house with a gas, wood or charcoal grill.
  • PAY attention to flu-like symptoms, especially if more than one person has them. Headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue and nausea are all common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure.
  • MOVE outside to fresh air immediately if a CO leak is suspected. Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

To avoid generator electrical hazards:

  • Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure.
  • Dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as back-feeding, can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
  • If it's necessary to connect the generator to house wiring in order to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install appropriate equipment. Or, your utility company may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch

To Avoid Fire Hazards:

Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite. Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers. Store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.





Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD); Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness; Michigan Department of Community Health; Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Federal Emergency Management Agency.